MOUNT WASHINGTON — U.S. Forest Service snow rangers said a skier got buried in an avalanche in Left Gully in Tuckerman Ravine on Mount Washington last Friday afternoon but survived.
“Like the incident two weeks ago, when two hikers fell down the Tuckerman Headwall, it could have turned out worse,” said Frank Carus, lead snow ranger/director of the Mount Washington Avalanche Center Monday. "He is lucky to be alive."
According to the USFS report posted on the MWAC Facebook page, at 3:20 p.m. on Jan. 22, the skier was carried by an avalanche from near the top of Left Gully almost to the floor of the ravine after another skier had triggered it from above.
“A 6-inch slab of new and wind-deposited snow was released from the uppermost start zone from Skier 2’s feet as Skier 1 made his first turn," it said.
"Skier 1 was quickly swept into and under the moving debris and lost skis and poles. When the flow stopped, he found himself buried face down, fortunately with his head very near the surface, but the rest of his body buried by 2 feet or more of debris. He was unable to move but could raise his head for a breath,” read the report.
Skier 2 did not see his friend and skied away, according to the report.
Ultimately, however, Skier 2 alerted others down by the rescue cache in Tuckerman Ravine. Closer to the scene, bystanders began to dig out Skier 1. Others arrived to assist, including Hermit Lake and Harvard Cabin caretakers and snow rangers.
No natural avalanches were reported Friday, but the USFS MWAC forecast for the ravine that day included possible human triggering of D1-2 wind slabs.
Neither of the skiers was equipped with avalanche beacons, shovels or probes, according to Carus and fellow snow ranger Ryan Lewthwaite.
“This pair was among many poorly equipped or skiers traveling alone Friday," Carus wrote. "All were very nice people with families. Please, please, please, read the forecast carefully, take an avalanche class, travel safely, and carry the proper equipment. Life is too short already!”
Carus said the high winds of the weekend helped tamp down the snow, thus leading to expected low avalanche danger. But he urged all to check the latest conditions posted late Monday afternoon at mountwashingtonavalanchecenter.org.